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Are MLS clubs next to enter partnerships with gambling firms?

Published:

8 Jan 2019

Watch any televised football fixture from either of the top two divisions in England, or the Scottish top flight, and it is highly likely that a company with ties to the gambling industry will sponsor at least one of the two teams involved.
Nine of the 20 Premier League clubs during the 2018/19 season have either a bookmaker or casino emblazoned across their shirts, while Watford are sponsored by foreign exchange broker FxPro, which does provide spread-betting opportunities to customers.
Drop down to the Championship and this number substantially increases to 17 of the 24 clubs having gambling firms present on their shirts, while the Football League in its entirety has SkyBet as its sponsor.
Head north of the border and much is the same, with Celtic and Rangers also on board the bandwagon.
What is especially significant is that many of these gambling companies are far from well known in the UK marketplace.
To help highlight the global nature of the partnerships and the pull that football is considered to have in supporting businesses attract new customers worldwide, Everton are sponsored by Nairobi-based leading African sports betting provider SportPesa, while Huddersfield have Chinese gaming company Ope Sports on their shirts.
However, the latest revelations indicate that these gambling companies are not content with making their mark on English football.
Another growth could be on the horizon, generating partnerships with clubs in the MLS.

2019 a big MLS year for sports betting partnerships

Until now, the MLS has prohibited clubs from taking advantage of sponsorship opportunities with companies from the sports betting industry.
But the expectation is that policies will soon be reviewed, with the possible development that such deals will be allowed as early as the 2019 MLS season.
At present, the New York Red Bulls are the only MLS team to play in a US state where betting has been legalised, with the Red Bull Arena stadium based in New Jersey.
And according to SportsBusiness Journal, talks have already taken place relating to selling the naming rights to the 25,000-seater stadium, with any such partnership considered to be worth as much as $4 million per year.
New York Red Bulls general manager Marc de Grandpre said: “If we can find a partner or partners that can help us enhance our fan experience through gambling, we’re willing to have a conversation.”

Other sponsorship opportunities

Alongside any stadium naming rights deal, there will be other sponsorship opportunities for betting companies in 2020.
That’s because of the approved decision to test branding on the sleeves of all MLS team shirts during this time.
Any such partnership that is potentially agreed would follow in the footsteps of the New Jersey Devils.
The NHL ice hockey team were the first major US sports organisation to secure a partner from the sports betting environment.
UK bookmaker William Hill is attempting to boost its status in the US through opening a sports lounge inside the Prudential Center.
Meanwhile, fantasy sports platform FanDuel have also done a deal, which will involve on-ice advertising.
Given that the owners of the Devils, David Blitzer and Josh Harris, are also the owners of Premier League club Crystal Palace, they will be fully aware of how lucrative sponsorship packages with sports betting companies can be.
Palace’s current shirt sponsor is international gaming company and sports betting provider ManBetX.

General sports betting growth in US

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court in the US overturned a federal ban on sports betting, which permitted all US states to legalise it if they so wished.
New Jersey is one of five states to have already taken this opportunity, alongside Nevada, Delaware, Mississippi and West Virginia. Rhode Island and Pennsylvania are also expected to join this list soon.
The thought is that as many as 24 US states could offer legal sports betting within the next two years.
Should this come to fruition, sports betting sponsorship opportunities could be substantial in the not so distant future.
According to the UNLV Center for Gaming Research, a record of $4.9 billion was staked on sports in Nevada in 2017.
This is in one state alone and is based on sports betting within casinos. Should US sports venues adopt betting booths and alike to enhance the experiences of supporters, who knows how high this figure could soar.